Dear The Awl,

I do not think that I have never particularly cared about a single thing The Awl has written about, but I love reading it all the time anyway, because of the glorious wordsmithery of Choire, Balk, et al. However, it bothers me that there are two reasons why reading The Awl in an RSS reader is better than reading it on the site: (1) you can read as much of each post as you’d like instead of as much as the site’s editors would like without having to keep clicking “READ ON” and then clicking back and waiting for things to load and (2) you can see the name of the person who wrote it under the title of each post (i don’t know why all group blogs don’t assume that at least some readers care who writes what?).

But let us not leave it there. Let us point to this fun, which admittedly I might care about more than the average reader because said issue was the first in my subscription to said magazine and because I have actually enjoyed a couple of Dave Eggers books and other things. So, whatever. I’ll skip the story and see the movie, and I’ll try to hold in my heart a little skepticism directed toward the New Yorker’s fiction editor. And I’d urge anyone who read all (two pages!) of the post to also read enough of the comments to get to this bit by Choire:

But I absolutely do believe this is a pegged event for the promotion of the movie. Between the studio-supplied art–and I speak as someone who’s been doing a weekly silly Q&A feature for a major newspaper for the last three years or so, and for which even that little thing we would NEVER accept studio art–to the timing, to the Brand Naminess Quotient (in which you ask: would the New Yorker publish this submission from my Aunt Susan? No they would not): well, it all smells.

(Um, sorry: don’t try to parse that grammar and punctuation.)

Newspapers’ troubles are their own fault?

There’s been so so much written about the decline of the newspaper industry over the last five years, and so much of it takes the view that the decline was inevitable in the face of the internet. Occasionally this is delivered with the unconvincing caveat that newspapers could have survived if they’d never put their content online for free. Yet while the newspaper’s inability, unwillingness, and slowness to adapt gets traction in a healthy number of these pieces, rarely does it get comprehensive review. Bill Wyman’s recent essay, Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing (via), not only chronicles these failures, but argues — persuasively — that the newspapers’ decline is their own damned fault.

He begins with a long introduction that spills over into reason #1 (the 5-point list structure seems grafted on to make the longish piece internet-friendly), but really gets cooking in #2:

The paradigmatic American newspaper, once its competition had been eliminated, settled down into a comfortable monopoly position in most cities; sometimes there was another paper around, but in most places one newspaper stood dominant and took home most of the ads, not to mention the money.

These monopoly positions created a dynamic by which the only thing a paper could do wrong was to offend or, God forbid, lose a reader.

The newspapers old model was based on producing MOR fluff. Everybody had a newspaper subscription, and if you wanted to advertise to them you had to buy newspaper ads. But Wyman argues that newspapers had at least a decade of warning of the sea change, and rather than using their profits to get ready, they turned them into increased profit margins. They could have been channeling their considerable resources into creating content with bite and immediacy (which is what you need to compete on the internet), and they could have embraced new technologies that emerged. Wyman blames the leadership, and he blames reporters themselves, for not standing up and arguing for these changes.

In #5 comes a pretty comprehensive critique of newspaper websites. I found this particularly delicious because it touches on a couple of points I’ve made over the years.

Newspaper sites, by and large, are designed as if the paper still had a monopoly on news in its area—and that it didn’t have to work hard to make the sites work sensibly for readers. There is often information available, but you have to work to find it, and the sites don’t seem to care whether you find it or not, and don’t present the information you want in an easy or engaging way. The criticism of Google News you hear from publishers makes me laugh. The top 20 daily newspaper companies in the country could have built a similar site with a paltry investment 15 years ago.

These pieces obligatorily end with a list of ways the problems could be fixed, and Wyman obliges with a great one. Prefaced with a hearty “They don’t have the gumption to change, and it’s probably too late anyway, but here’s what I’d try,” it’s actually a really great list. But no cheating — read the whole thing.

Miamity, the update

miamity Remember Miamity? Of course you don’t. Back in 2005, Miamity was one of the first wave of Miami omniblogs. It was written by University of Miami student Kyle Munzenrieder (this was in the days before every college student had a blog or three), and had a kind of laid-back nonchalant snark that you’d still miss if you’d read it. (And you can!, thanks to the Wayback Machine, where all other links shall point.)

So, everything was going along just great, until sometime around November 15, 2009. Kyle posted a music video, written and produced largely by members of the Hurricanes, the UM football team, smartly titled Don’t Let Your Ho Go to the 7th Floor, which by all accounts is a downright catchy ode to a gangbang. The song was nothing new, but apparently the blog introduced it to a whole new batch of folks, and all hell proceeded to break loose. Highlights included national coverage, Kyle being summoned to the Dean’s office and leaving in handcuffs, Kyle posting a fake suicide notice on his blog, a front-page story in the Miami Herald (reprinted here), and Kyle being kicked out of school and living in some squalid off-campus apartment, unemployed and dejected. I’d highly recommend to investigate further, which you can do at the articles tagged ‘7th-floor-gate’ at Miamity (although you will not find the original post, which is deleted 4evah), and Critical Miami coverage of Miamity.

But my favorite part of the story jumps to the present, where we find our hero as the only blogger from the early Miami blogging scene to have successfully made the jump to bonafide (read: paid) journalism. He wrote a bit for Ignore Magazine. Sometime in 2008 he was hired by the Miami New Times, and he recently had a music feature published in ultra-glossy Miami Magazine.

I exchanged a couple of e-mails with Kyle recently, and asked him about his ongoing transition from blogging to “straight” journalism:

The major conflict I sometimes have, if only in my head, is that the blogging tends to be a lot more opinionated and off the cuff. Which could cause problems with more traditional journalism. Like, just as an example I’d love to sit down and pick someone like Marco Rubio’s brain, but I doubt with everything I’ve written about him online he’d let me.

You probably can’t catch Kyle on his new blog, because it also apprears abandoned, but you can find him on the twitter. Good show, eh?


I haven’t read much on TVTropes yet, but apparently lots of people have fun poking around in there. The idea is to take certain re-occurring ideas from our culture and lay them out explicitly, thereby revealing something about ourselves and generally to amuse and enlighten.

Hulu Desktop has no stop button

Hulu desktop

I guess it makes perfect sense that Hulu Desktop has no stop button — it’s “simulating” a TV, you see. But it still seems disconcerting and weird. I’ve also noted that Hulu has not been adding new shows at any particular speed (at least, not anything I’m going to watch). Still, it works — sort of — with the Hauppauge remote that came with my Dell, and figuring out how to use it is obvious, so I’m giving it a shot. Update: Complete clusterfuck. Forces you to download software updates, otherwise refuses to start. Hangs intermittently. Sometimes impossible to exit fullscreen mode. Crashy.